The Funding Organisations for Gender Community of Practice (FORGEN CoP) had initially planned a two-day in-person consolidation workshop to occur in Science Foundation Ireland, Dublin at the end of March 2020 as the community’s first in-person meeting. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was moved to an online format. To assure a manageable schedule, the online workshops were scheduled to occur over two 3-hour sessions on 1 st April and 19 th May 2020 and a social networking event was organised to provide FORGEN members the opportunity to get to know each other outside the workshop activities
During the workshop we discussed our aims and what we would like to achieve. First, we sought to consolidate the interests and needs of the CoP members into an agreed plan of action. Then, we reflected on the CoP support measures in place to identify and share lessons learned in terms of what could be improved and identified where additional support is needed. Last, we discussed opportunities for creating new CoPs and for making connections between existing CoPs to progress the adoption of the ACT repertoire of gender equality advancing tools.
The FORGEN members worked in small groups to discuss the focus and outputs of actions within each working group. FORGEN CoP has five working groups: 1) reducing bias in the grant evaluation process, 2) collecting and monitoring gender equality data, 3) sex and gender dimension in research, 4) intersectionality and 5) influencing culture and leadership for sustainability. Examples of the outputs discussed were: producing best practice documentation, increasing members knowledge, and disseminating findings more widely. Methods and timelines for these actions were discussed, and an implementation plan was developed collaboratively.
Thereafter, members of the CoP were asked to reflect on the CoP method by debating critical issues such as: what are the main benefits and gaps of CoP methodology; how does the CoP approach speed up progress towards gender equality, as compared to working without one; or how can we identify opportunities for creating new CoPs, or networking current ones to advance gender equality tools?
From this participatory workshop an action plan for each working group within FORGEN was drafted and the group reflected on the strengths and weaknesses of the CoP model of collaboration.
When reflecting about the benefits of the CoP methodology, the main benefits discussed were: 1) helping to build international networks outside of the usual networks, 2) fostering exchanges
between practitioners, 3) working together in a CoP avoids isolation and you can see issues are similar across agencies, 4) gives creditability as you can benchmark the work of your agency against others, and 5) members felt we could start to look at the “why”, rather than just the “how” of issues. FORGEN CoP members also gave recommendations on how we could improve our communication and work together.
The Covid-19 pandemic also affected the workload and responsibilities of the FORGEN CoP members, recognition of this was required to ensure members situations were considered when
planning the timeline of activities for the community. A switch to virtual working environments was a success. However, there were challenges as many members have had increased workloads due to COVID-19 related granting activities and increased caring responsibilities. Overall, the activities of the consolidation workshop formed a basis for the next steps forward in the FORGEN CoP.
The consolidation workshop was a success as the community developed a deeper understanding of the needs of the group and an action plan was developed to progress to the community’s next steps. The FORGEN WGs agreed to work organise themselves independently to implement their developed action plan. As a community, we discussed expanding our collaborative network by reaching out to other communities of practice and experts in the field of gender equality in research funding.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic changed our community’s planned activities and method of interaction, we face the future collaborations and actions in a positive light and reinforced cohesion.